How You Can Use Improv to Gain Client Trust

Posted by Annie Niehoff in Uncategorized

There is a saying in PR to the effect of, “Marketing is telling everyone else you’re good, PR is getting someone else to say you are.”

Now, I am a huge proponent of marketing, considering it is my grad school focus and mImprovy career choice. But there is something to be noted about getting third party approval.

But how do you develop a strong relationship with your clients and get them to say nice things about you and your company? By gaining their trust and making yourself positively remembered, of course.

Here are some trust gaining tips I learned from my time in improv:

1. Say “Yes”- Accept positivity in what your scene partner brings and build on it

In improv:

The first rule in improv is to just say YES!  Yes to anything your scene partner brings to the stage. If someone says they are an iguana riding a spaceship to Mars, then it is the partner’s responsibility to pretend they are riding with an iguana through space!

At work:

Saying yes means more than doing anything and everything a client asks of you. Saying yes is a vow of acceptance and positivity…even if your first instinct is to say no.

Next time a client reaches out to you with a new approach or idea, be open to explore that area with them. It could open a new perspective on your process.

2. Listen- Respond honestly to what they said

In improv:

As my improv teacher explained, “Hear everything. The word ‘listen' implies you might miss something.”  What she means is that a small movement or word can be the creation of an entirely different or more complex scene.

A story is more interesting when scene partners are feeding off each other collaboratively because each moment is something neither person knew was going to happen.

By truly listening, a unique moment can be created and will be much more valuable and interesting than any moment either person would have thought of by themselves.

At work

Next time you’re on the phone nodding off to a long winded client and getting through it by adding an “uh huh” or a “yeah,” stop and really listen to what the client is saying.

I’m willing to bet you will find objectives and solutions to problems you or the client weren’t even sure existed. Listen to the off hand, quiet remarks or patterns and repetitions.

Use what you hear to point out these patterns and come up with ideas that no one has mentioned yet. You’ll be sure to stand out!

3. Support your partners- If they look good we all look good

In improv:

If a scene starts out with an improver lamenting their love for Brock Alley, and their scene partner starts talking about all the ways to cook vegetables (broccoli?)…fight the urge to ignore or point out the mistake.

Support your partner by creating a scene that can become infinitely more interesting. Perhaps that mistake leads to a dark scene detailing two people who are conspiring to cook their long lost loves.

At work:

At face value, if your client is succeeding, you are succeeding. If something happens at work that means your client is not succeeding, take ownership and do everything possible to create success.

Do not leave your client guessing.

If they ask misinformed questions, take the time to validate their confusion and find new ways to communicate an explanation. You will make your client empowered with knowledge and that happy feeling will be associated with you.

4. Bring to the scene- Provide specifics to further along the story

In improv:

Usually described as the “AND” in what many improvers call the ‘Yes, and' rule. Bringing specifics to the scene helps move the story along.

An improver could open a scene with, “Dad, this pizza is making me sick.” That brings a specific relationship and action to the setting which gives something to your scene partner. Opening a scene with, “Hi, how are you?” leaves all the burden of creation to your scene partner.

At work:

Whether you communicate with your clients daily or weekly, you should always be prepared for the discussion and be bringing something to the table.

Take notes when you have conversations with your clients and compile them into one place. Before each meeting, you can brief yourself on the topics you’ve discussed previously.

Write down how they FEEL about the work that is going on, any personal information, and repeating themes. Then impress the client by recalling specifics… ask how his daughter Suzie is doing. Does he still feel apprehensive about the work?

Recalling specifics will get your meeting into the deeper stuff quicker…all thanks to you bringing specifics to the table!

5. Don’t force the funny- Be honest in the scene, the interesting stuff comes from the real stuff

In improv:

Jokes make the audience laugh. They provide you with audible feedback that the audience is engaged in what you’re doing on stage. And while jokes are funny, they can feel forced and awkward if it isn’t true to the scene action.

At work:

Being charming and funny generally have been good ways to win people over. But if you are not honest in the moment, it can make people feel uneasy and mistrusting.

The best way to gain a client's trust is to cut the banter and speak to them honestly and openly.

Offer your researched opinion. Honestly inform them what services will work best for them.

That means you may miss selling them on a big ticket item-but not every service is right for every client. You will gain the their respect and trust in the long run, which will lead to new projects and areas to explore. That is much more valuable than adding on a useless feature to their bill.


In the end, working with clients can have rewarding moments and exhausting moments. But to win them over, there are tricks you can use to make you stand out.

Improv has taught me tricks, behind the scenes and on stage, on how to engage others in honest moments that lead to unique projects. If these tools can win over audiences, they can win over clients.

Remember to accept new ideas, listen, be supportive, bring specifics and act honestly. Not only will your name be spoken about positively, but you will have also created a unique bond with your client.

Happy working and let me know what you think is essential to building trust with your clients!